Return of the Swastika: The Growth of neo-Nazism in Russia

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Return of the Swastika?

Sectarianism continues to increase in Russia and surrounding countries (e.g. Ukraine. Armenia, Georgia). Experts say, in Russian alone, members of sectarian groups number over 700, 000. Sectarianism has grown rapidly since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Experts believe many of Russia’s sects represent non-religious organisations. They say such sects have two aims – power and money. These sects are of a more social and political, rather than religious, nature.

A growing trend in Russia, in particular, is towards extreme radical right-wing ideals. There are over 150 registered neo-Nazi groups in Russia presently, many of them recognisable as skinheads. Apparently, given Russia’s size and population, this is a relatively small number. However, Galina Kozhevnikova, deputy head of an analytical research centre, suggests that while groups are small in number, ‘more than half of Russians support neo-Nazi ideas.’ While Internet editor, Viktor Tsvetkov, notes that poll results suggest that ‘every second Russian is a skinhead at heart.’

It appears that, across Europe in such countries as Germany, Sweden, France, Serbia, Austria and the Netherlands, the far right is also on the rise. Hong Kong based journalist, Ritt Goldstein, from Asian Times, goes as far as to assert that not since the 1930’s great depression, has there been such a rise in the far right in the West. It appears many people are growing increasingly frustrated with the apparent effects of ‘multiculturalism’. This is leading many European people to lean towards narrow minded simplistic solutions to solve the complex economic and ethnic tension issues. Neo- Nazi groups, or at least related ideas, thus become appealing to many.

The Russian government is aware of the growing sectarian situation and has sought to intervene. In September 2010 they introduced an experimental course for school curriculums in several Russian regions. The course educates students about ‘traditional faith’ to help prevent them from falling victim to extreme groups. The state is also establishing rehabilitation centres for sectarian victims. The Russian Orthodox Church is also trying to help people with sound instruction. This can all get rather complicated when the Russian Orthodox would like to see only one main form of Christian expression:- the Russian Orthodox Church. It generally regards many newer Protestant, and especially Pentecostal, churches as sects and sectarian, as well as the many other religious and non-religious sectarian groups.

After many decades of enforced atheism, Russians are now struggling with ignorance, gullibility and vulnerability to all sorts of claims and notions about God and religious faith.

(TACL Nov-Dec 2010, Vol. 31 No. 5)